Mabinogi - GDC First Look
While at the Game Developer's Conference, Community Laura Genender had the opportunity to talk to the folks from Nexon America about their upcoming game, Mabinogi.
Last week at GDC I met with Nexon America, the publishers behind MapleStory, to discuss their upcoming title: Mabinogi. Originally released in the Asian market, Mabinogi has already proven that it can withstand the test of time and player appeal. Through 8 Generations (expansions) of content, the game has prospered in five Asian countries; the 5th of March will mark the American Open Beta with Generation One.
First up, some company backstory. Once upon a time, there was a South Korean company named Nexon. Nexon has always been an industry pioneer: from publishing one of the first graphic based MMOs, to blazing the trail of the free to play model, they earned every ounce of success they gained. Nexon even sports an MMO with over 50% female players – Audition, a dance-based game found here.
The Nexon team members I met today were from the North American outpost of Nexon group: Nexon America. My guides through the world of Nexon – and Mabinogi – were John H. Chi, President and CEO of Nexon America; Hillary Lyons, Director of Public Relations; and Joselph Wregglesworth, Customer Relations Manager. Quick fact: over 2,000 people worldwide are employees of Nexon!
On to the game! During our meeting, I sat down with the Nexon team and took a look at Mabinogi. As Wregglesworth said, Mabinogi is a game “about the small stuff.” From sheering sheep and milking cows to fighting off fearsome monsters with spell and sword, players can engage in practically any activity in the game – and have fun.
Wregglesworth described some of the mini-games, such as weaving cloth, fishing, drawing maps (for explorers), and more. When playing music, players can use scrolls to compose their own pieces or copy favorite tunes they’ve heard in other games or on the radio. We even took a look at the dyeing mini game, where, on a palette swirled with colors, you have to move 4 connected points to land on a color you like.
Along with mini games, skills determine much of your character’s abilities and successes. There are over 100 skills in the game, and there are no classes or class descriptions. You format your own character based around what you want to do – do you want to be a cow-milking, fireball throwing, chainmail wearing Magician? It’s all yours. If you spent enough time you could, technically, max out every skill in the game.
Skills are trained up by using them – the more often you sheer a sheep or play a tune, the better you will do. These activities also affect your character’s stats – so swinging a sword around will help raise your strength. Not only do you see these changes reflected in your statistics, but your character regularly grows fatter, slimmer, more muscular, or less muscular based on what you do. If you eat a lot of food and stand around, you’re going to grow chunky. If you run around and chop wood all day, you’ll be thin with toned arms and legs.
As each real-life week passes, so does a year in Mabinogi. Characters start between ages 10 and 17 (the player decides), then grows older by one year every Saturday. This changes your stats, your learning curve, and your appearance – players grow taller as they grow older! Right now, the age-cap is 25. Once you reach 25 you slow down your ability learning – this can be mitigated by “reincarnating” as a 10 to 17 year old. You can wipe your levels, or keep them…won’t it be great to be a level 50 ten year old?
Wregglesworth then showed me some of the skills, including ice and fireball. Unlike most games, before you use a magic skill, you have to charge it up – this was done by clicking on the spell button. Each time Wregglesworth clicked, I saw a small, white glowing orb start to rotate around his character. These, he told me, were the iceballs – he could ready up to 5 of them before using them. Spells work differently depending on what skill you use…for fireball, only one fireball would appear but each “charge” (up to 5) made it grow bigger and more powerful.
I wanted to see the magic in action, so we ran off to find some critters. In a field near town were some red foxes (what do you want, it was a newbie town!) and Wregglesworth started launching the iceballs at the foxes. I noticed that the foxes often changed posture and positioning. Wregglesworth explained that your enemies can use skills, too. Sometimes a fox might be ready to counterattack, or defend itself – this could be seen both by its physical appearance and by a thought bubble above its head.
I asked my hosts how the game played in terms of solo vs group content. While the game is extremely solo friendly, it’s also tuned to make grouping enjoyable and easy. The LFG tool allows you to enter the dungeon name, level range, and any notes you want – you can passlock your group so only friends could join, too. NPCs in towns can sell you party quests, and the entire system is both customizable and fast to use.
With 7 more Generations already made for the Asian market, content updates will be constant and consistent! In the future, Mabinogi players can look forward to two more races (giants and elves) besides the launch race of human, flying mounts, and more.
The game will be free to play with a cash shop. While they don’t have any prices or item selections narrowed down quite yet, it will be similar in price range to MapleStory. One of the items that Wregglesworth did say would be in the shop was reincarnation for your character, as mentioned above.